KAPAA — At public universities, only 19 percent of full-time students graduate in four years, according to a 2014 study by Complete College America.
But for Kauai native and current Boise State University senior, Cassidy Yatsko, four years was too long for her liking.
“When I went into my first semester, I definitely expected to be there for four years and to be a usual college kid. But when I was looking at the curriculum and my major to obtain my degree, it became a running joke with my dad that where I would say ‘well, I can beat out these other kids’ and graduate in three years rather than four.”
And that’s exactly what the 2014 Kapaa High graduate is doing.
After registering for her final semester of college and getting her graduation approved by her school, Cassidy will graduate with a double-major in psychology and sociology with a minor in American Sign Language and a Certificate in Dispute Resolution.
“My first semester, I only took 16 credits but I thought it was a light load,” Cassidy told The Garden Island. “I thought that I could pile on more so I ended up taking another course and ended up taking 18 credits the next semester. It was hard, but it was manageable, at least with my degree.”
According to the report, nationwide, only 50 of more than 580 public four-year institutions graduate a majority of their full-time students on time. The report said some of the causes are inability to register for required courses, credits lost in transfer and remediation sequences that do not work.
The report also said some students take too few credits per semester.
“Students and parents know that time is money,” said the report, called “Four-Year Myth.” “The reality is that our system of higher education costs too much, takes too long and graduates too few.”
Majoring in social sciences was a product of Cassidy’s upbringing. Her father, Jack, is in the mental healthy industry and her mother, Janece, was in social work for awhile. Helping other people was something she was raised to do.
Not only is Cassidy a 3.8 GPA student on pace to graduate this spring, she also works part time and has worked through college since her sophomore year.
“I didn’t work freshman year so I could adjust to everything, but then I worked as an RA my sophomore year and that gave me free housing and a meal plan,” Cassidy said. “I saw it as an internship.”
She also worked a desk job doing clerical work and currently helps plan and coordinate events at Boise State for incoming freshmen to adjust to college life, which is ironic when you consider her father was concerned she wouldn’t be getting the full college experience by taking so many classes at once.
“At first, my wife and I were like, ‘why’? We wanted her to understand that there was no pressure from our end of it,” Jack said. “But we were proud of her to go out on her own and plan it and think ahead. She’s always been a planner. But we also wanted to make sure she was enjoying school, too. College is about meeting new people and learning experiences, not just the schooling part of it.”
As she nears graduation, Cassidy hopes she can continue to help others in whatever profession she goes into.
“When I went into school, I wanted to go into counseling,” she said. “And I still really like helping other students. Or I could go into what I’m doing right now, which is to plan programs and activities for a corporate business or a university. I was potentially leaning toward working at a hospital and working towards being a fundraising coordinator.”
Even though she hasn’t been in college long, Cassidy will miss college life and her friends she made there, most of whom won’t be graduating until 2018.
“I like the college scene, but I’m excited to see what the work force has to offer, too,” she said.
It wasn’t always easy for Cassidy, no matter how well she seemed to be doing in school. As her father Jack told The Garden Island, there were a couple occasions that she would call home and vent her frustrations.
“She’s called us a couple times during finals week freaking out but she’s never said that she had to dial it back or anything,” he said. “It was more of in the moment and just freaking out.”
Jack has another daughter who is a senior at Kapaa High School and said that she is also thinking of trying to graduate college in three years after seeing her older sister do it.
“My wife and I are really proud of her,” Jack said. “She would get projects done on time as a kid, even in elementary and stuff. We’ve always been proud of her in that regard. She’s a well-rounded, humble kid. She’s never thought that she’s better than anyone else, she’s not afraid to ask questions when she doesn’t know things.”
Growing up on Kauai and leaving for school on the mainland is a daunting task for many high school graduates. The lifestyle, as Cassidy explained, is so different.
But she hopes other students take a chance and pursue their dreams off island.
“It’s all about hard work and if you can, then you can do it,” she said. “A lot of kids on Kauai that I went to high school with didn’t think that they could do anything. But there’s so much more out there. It doesn’t matter if you went to public school or private school. The world is what you make of it.”